Sauternes my Sweetheart

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Did you know? Sauternes is a French sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves area in Bordeaux. It is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea fungus, also known as noble rot. Yes you heard me…I said FUNGUS.

Back in the 17th century, the use of Noble rot wasn’t an accepted winemaking technique therefore it was rather kept quiet. It’s only later in the 18th century that Sauternes reputation became internationally famous.

 Making Sauternes is a risky adventure

Indeed farmers must hope the weather attains just the right balance of humidity and breeze to produce Botrytis cinerea fungus.

Thanks to the difference in temperature between the two rivers Garonne and Ciron near the Sauternes region, during the warm and dry season of autumn, we can observe the production of a mist helping in the development of noble rot. Later in the day when the sun chases the mist away, the grapes dry and are safe from more malignant fungus.

 To qualify as a Sauternes, a wine has to be in the Sauternes region (made-up of only 5 villages) and have an alcohol level of at least 13%, which makes the wine even rarer.

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The best Sauternes wine (and the most prestigious) you can find is Chateau d’Yquem. It’s the only Sauternes with the mention Premier Cru Superieur. Chateau d’Yquem has been held in this high regard for hundreds of years. When Thomas Jefferson - the 3rd President of the United States - visited Bordeaux in the late 18th century, he wrote in his diary that d’Yquem was the best white wine of France.

So, how does Sauternes taste? 

Full sweetness is balanced with a touch of acidity and golden fruit like peaches and apricots drizzled in honey. A nutty flavour gives way to a finish that lasts for up to a few minutes.

You’ll appreciate Sauternes at its best with Brie, blue and fresh goat cheeses. It will delight your senses when paired with Serrano and Parma hams, Peking duck, veal cutlets sautéed in olive oil and Sauternes or simple roast chicken.

 Our recommendations

 Chateau Carmes de Rieussec

Floral nose, acacia, fresh pear and candied apricot. The finish on this wine doesn’t last seconds, but minutes, making it a slow sipper. Drink it now or let it age up to 15 years.

Château de Fargues

Marquis de Lur Saluces 2006. Belongs to the Lur Saluces family since 1472. You will taste very deep and intense noble rot, citrus peel, pear and acacia honey everywhere and experience its strength and power on the palate with stunning balance. This wine is very elegant, refined and rich, with a soft finish.

Chateau d’Yquem

Absolutely one of the best expressions of Sauternes out there, Château d’Yquem is not to be missed. The pleasure provided by tasting the Yquem is a delicate sensation to express. Yquem is harmony in the complexity of flavours and aromas, a harmony that evolves, whose constituents blend to give birth to other balances. Pale yellow color with an intense nose of exotic fruits, white owers, aromatic herbs. High purity underlined by an elegant woody texture, participating in the aromatic complexity of this wine. Round, elegant and lively. The finish is very balanced and long.

Gilles NovelComment